One of the leading ambassadors of the further education sector has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Edge Hill University.

Dame Patricia Bacon, who has been the Principal of St Helens College for 10 years, has been hugely committed to raising the profile, significance and impact of education and ensuring that opportunities are available for all.

Her honorary degree, which was given in light of her inspirational contribution to the sector and exemplary partnership work with Edge Hill, was conferred from the University’s Vice Chancellor John Cater in a ceremony on the Ormskirk campus. She explains what the award means to her in an interview here.

Upon receiving the award, Pat said: “This is a proud moment for me in what has been an incredible year which started with my DBE in the New Year.

“In education we can create opportunities for people in order to allow them to exceed their own expectations and I share many of the same values as Edge Hill University. Anyone graduating from this University can be truly proud and confident that it will go from strength to strength.”

Following her own graduation, Pat spent five years in retail management before becoming a lecturer at Cauldon College, Stoke-on-Trent, which was to be the start of a highly successful career in further education spanning more than 30 years. Pat’s specialist fields are retail, business communication and marketing.  As a qualified and highly skilled teacher her experience of curriculum development, teaching and learning, and her passion for ensuring that work related learning has a place in the curriculum have all informed Pat’s outstanding work as a leader within education.

As Principal of St Helens College, she has ensured it has benefitted from a £60m capital programme which has created not only a first class learning environment for students but for the community and town as a whole. This achievement represents Pat’s many attributes – drive, energy, passion, vision, strategic thinking, negotiation skills and tenacity.

Offering advice to students graduating, Pat said: “Education really does make a difference, especially in this tough economic climate. Think of it as a journey, not a destination – whatever point you get to there is a next step beyond that. I also believe that learning is both formal and informal; learning and development comes in all shapes and sizes, so carry on learning in whatever way you can.”

An outstanding leader who has achieved a great deal for thousands of students across the country, Pat has also contributed widely and significantly to a range of external organisations including seven years as an NHS Hospitals Trust Non-Executive Director and periods as Director of Mersey Maritime, St Helens World of Glass, the award winning St Helens Chamber and Chair of Lifelong Learning UK. Currently Pat is a member of the JISC Board and Transition Group, reflecting her particular interest in learning technology.

In 2009 Pat was elected to the prestigious position of National President for the Association of Colleges (AoC). She describes this as one of the most influential and challenging periods of her career because it was through a time of significant political and economic change with both the recession and the 2010 General Election dominating her period in office.

In the 2011 New Year’s Honours List Pat was awarded a DBE for her contribution to both local and national work on behalf of colleges.